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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The corporate debt market is beginning to follow the public equity market's lead in decoupling from the real economy.

Why it matters: Private equity and its lenders spent 2009 staring into the abyss. In 2020, they're just pretending it doesn't exist.

Driving the news: KKR reportedly is prepping a $2.75 billion dividend recap for Epicor Software, a portfolio company it tried and failed to sell last year. It would be the first such deal since before the pandemic began.

  • The argument for this deal is that KKR has cut Epicor's leverage load since acquiring it from Apax Partners in 2016, and that it has strong recurring revenue and cash flow.
  • The argument against this deal is that Epicor is selling enterprise software in the midst of a severe recession, with a particular focus on retail, manufacturing and distribution. It's one thing to keep the ship steady, it's quite another to encumber it with new debt.

The big picture: Overall credit conditions have steadily improved since March, thanks in large part to Fed backstops.

  • Private equity execs tell me that high equity prices, not debt availability or terms, is their stumbling block for new deals. As one explained: "The banks obviously know there's a pandemic, but you wouldn't know it when you talk to them about financing a new deal."
  • Defaults and bankruptcies have steadily increased since March, but much of that has been siloed in particularly hard-hit industries (retail, hospitality/leisure) or for companies that were already struggling.
  • Overall, the percentage of corporate bonds trading at distressed rates has fallen from more than 30% in March to 12.7% in June.
  • Within the leveraged loan market specifically, the current default rate is at less than one-third of its 2009 financial crisis peak.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Oct 20, 2020 - Economy & Business

The SPAC boom is starting to crack

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The SPAC boom is beginning to show its first cracks, as several private equity-sponsored efforts have needed to downsize.

Driving the news: Cerberus yesterday shrunk the anticipated IPO for its telecom-focused SPAC from $400 million to $300 million.

Woman who allegedly stole laptop from Pelosi's office to sell to Russia is arrested

Photo: FBI

A woman accused of breaching the Capitol and planning to sell to Russia a laptop or hard drive she allegedly stole from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office was arrested in Pennsylvania's Middle District Monday, the Department of Justice said.

Driving the news: Riley June Williams, 22, is charged with illegally entering the Capitol as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct. She has not been charged over the laptop allegation and the case remains under investigation, per the DOJ.

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID-related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.